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Magazine's vulgarity may prompt change in Lakeland Public TV's gift to donors

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news Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

In a move to protect its family friendly values and standards, Lakeland Public Television may drop Newsweek magazine as a gift to donors supporting the Bemidji station.

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Bill Sanford, chief executive for Lakeland, said Tuesday a major contributor to the nonprofit station raised issue with vulgar language used "gratuitously" by Newsweek.

Sanford, who receives the magazine at home, agreed the magazine recently began using more brash language, including words unsuitable for children's eyes and ears.

"We want to be a family friendly organization," he said.

A few weeks ago, Sanford first raised the issue with other public TV executives on a private listserv, an electronic mailing list, in hopes of receiving some feedback about how stations were handling concerns about Newsweek.

Then someone shared Sanford's comments with the New York Times, which used them while writing this week about Newsweek's apparent newfound vulgarity. The Times article reported Sanford wanted Lakeland "to offer premiums that reflect our values. Being family-friendly is one of them." He suggested that Time or U.S. News & World Report might "fit our values better."

"I don't appreciate how this got out into the public," Sanford told the Pioneer, adding he stands behind the comments.

For years, Lakeland has offered donors a free Newsweek subscription if they pledged $36 or more during pledge drives.

The Times reported subscriptions to Newsweek and other magazines have raised more than $375 million since 1991 for public broadcasters, who pay sometimes as little as a penny per subscription, according to the Pledge Partner Magazine Premium Program. Newsweek accounts for 90 percent of the money that the program has raised since 1996, when it was first offered, said Zunk Buker, founder of Pledge Partner, which is based in New London, N.H.

The newspaper said the changes at Newsweek, which recently merged with The Daily Beast, could cost the newsmagazine partnerships with public television and radio stations.

James McPherson, a media blogger and journalism professor at Whitworth University in Washington, documented numerous uses of vulgar words in the Jan. 23 edition of Newsweek.

"Through a weird circumstance involving donations to public radio, I get two copies of Newsweek each week," McPherson wrote in a blog post late last month. "This week's issue demonstrated why that's typically two more than I need."

A Pioneer request to Newsweek seeking comment was not returned Tuesday.

Stephen Colvin, chief executive of The Newsweek Daily Beast Company, told the Times via e-mail: "We are very proud of our partnership with public broadcasting stations." In addition, Colvin told the Times that January newsstand sales were up 15 percent compared with a year ago. In a statement e-mailed by a spokesman, Justine Rosenthal, Newsweek's executive editor, said, "We do not use profanity unless within a quote or in the context of a story and care is taken to ensure it is never used gratuitously."

But Sanford and others disagree, questioning Newsweek's change in journalism standards.

"I think they are going for shock value," said Sanford, adding he would like to see Newsweek return to its earlier standards.

In the meantime, he continues to consider other magazines, including Lake Country Journal, as subscription gifts for station donors.

"We hadn't even really made the absolute decision to pull the plug on Newsweek," Sanford said. "I don't feel like we really have a choice."

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